Hyundai crafts Ger­man-style hot hatch


Nu­mer­ous nutso web­sites con­cur; in a blades-ver­sus­bul­lets con­test, there’s no cer­tainty fire­power will al­ways take the win.

Gun­sAmer­ica (no, re­ally) will ad­vo­cate five rea­sons in favour of car­ry­ing a carver over a Colt into a stoush. And even though it ul­ti­mately it sug­gests you’d ide­ally be best dis­posed to have both, this does sug­gest that old id­iom about the im­pru­dence of tak­ing a knife to a gun­fight is wrong.

Good news for Hyundai, then. That’s ex­actly what it’s do­ing with the i30 N.

Crafted by some of the best Ger­man hands in the busi­ness – surely you know Hyundai’s rocket pro­gramme has its own von Braun –the i30 N is, on pa­per, none­the­less a bit like that sec­ondary blade on a Swiss army knife. Sharp enough to an­noy, but hardly likely to griev­ously wound.

That en­gine. Tur­bocharged 1998cc four cylin­der. That’s not ex­cep­tional. Out­puts, ditto. Few have more torque, oth­ers more power.

That gear­box. I’m per­son­ally not ad­verse to a good man­ual; this one’s fine. How­ever, the mar­ket says DSG or noth­ing, so Hyundai would do it­self a favour by fast-track­ing one.

Fur­ther vis­ual in­spec­tion might well leave you strug­gling to un­der­stand why Hyundai calls this its first car for the true en­thu­si­ast. The low­er­ing im­proves the stance and the sport­ing add-ons look good – those 19-inch rims are snappy and the rear wing so beau­ti­fully in­te­grated you’d swear it was part of the met­al­work– but the start-point shape is quiet, so un­avoid­ably it’s not mas­sively ex­pres­sive.

Same goes in­side. The heav­ily bol­stered sports seats and a chunky steer­ing wheel raise in­ter­est; yet you’re as likely to no­tice the hard, scratchy plas­tics.

This sense of quiet in­no­cence is en­tirely a ruse. Idea of what sort of preda­tor this re­ally is be­gins with a bark­ing start-up. The bur­bling idle is strong and there’s pop and crackle from another set­ting.

This isn’t shou­ti­ness for show. An en­gine that be­gan life in a Sonata sedan re­tains enough ci­vil­ity for around-town saunter, but only just. Give the throt­tle any de­cent weight and the char­ac­ter changes en­tirely; bye bye nice. Time for nasty.

The ini­tial at­ti­tude is af­fected by the drive mode set­ting. Nor­mal it­self is quite feisty, but Sport is the one. There’s an Eco, too, just to prove the en­gi­neers have a sense of hu­mour.

About them. The team un­der Al­bert Bier­mann, for­mer ar­chi­tect of some de­cent BMW M cars (and who, as head of High Per­for­mance Devel­op­ment can take credit for Kia’s Stinger, too), hasn’t strayed much from the con­tem­po­rary hot hatch tem­plate.

Yet elect­ing (un­sur­pris­ingly) the Golf GTI as their bench­mark – not the reg­u­lar one, but the sweet 40th year edi­tion – was a chal­lenge. They had to change just about ev­ery­thing. So they did.

An elec­tron­i­cally con­trolled dif­fer­en­tial re­in­forces that N is more about driv­ing than pos­ing.

Div­ing into op­tions that per­son­alise just about ev­ery­thing me­chan­i­cal can af­fect the fe­roc­ity. There’s a to­tal of 1944 pos­si­ble com­bi­na­tions to get the car ex­actly to taste. A week wasn’t long enough, so I hit the but­ton em­bla­zoned with a che­quered flag and hoped for the best. This ac­ti­vates N mode, which en­acts set­tings for Nur­bur­gring’s Nord­schliefe. Hit it twice and you can al­ter the ex­treme dy­nam­ics to your lik­ing, just like … gosh, that’s right … an M3.

Hyundai sug­gests us­ing N on the road is ir­re­spon­si­ble.

They’re right but I’ve been called worse. True, the ride is bor­der­line chi­ro­prac­tic, the en­gine re­sponse manic. It’s crazy, but has to be so. Hot is ei­ther hot or it’s not. So, this is your pocket knife with a sur­prise fea­ture of a Croc Dundee bowie blade. For use when some­one in a Fo­cus ST or Me­gane RS gives lip.

N mode isn’t the X-in­gre­di­ent. There’s some­thing bet­ter. That this car so sub­limely di­rects its fight to the road, never the driver, is not just down to its tech­nol­ogy. It’s been touched by hu­man great­ness. They say the i30 is the first front-drive car Bier­mann over­saw. If that’s the case, I can’t wait to dis­cover how the sec­ond will feel.

The i30 N has been in a lo­cal hold­ing pat­tern; sup­ply is tight, every mar­ket wants it. But Hyundai NZ says sig­noff is close and is adamant pric­ing will be highly com­pet­i­tive.

Let’s hope. The lo­cals would be mad not to go to the Nth de­gree; the fac­tory crazy not to cre­ate more of this.

Talk, then, about a i30 N hy­per-hatch with all-wheel drive, al­ready pre­viewed by a wild 280kW/450Nm R30 con­cept, has got to be good for the Seoul.

We’ve driven the i30 N on New Zealand roads, but it’s not on sale here ...yet.

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